Whether you’re planning to produce your own music for the first time as a hobby or are interested in pursuing a mixing and mastering career, you’ll get a boosted start with some advice for choosing the best modern VST plugins for a beginner. In this article, we’ll get through exciting options to help anyone begin their audio journey in 2021.
The music production industry is a quality-demanding one. Because of that, the music producer, or the mixing engineer, spends years updating their plugins libraries; these will usually assist them in meeting certain criteria. It’s a good practice in the field to familiarize yourself with brands and franchises of VSTs; remember, they’ll be your arsenal once you’ve had a good amount of them, and you’ll need to rely on them constantly.
When looking at the vast options of plugins available, a beginner might get lost in deciding which they’ll start using. There are so many, and it can be time-consuming to try all the interesting ones they’ve spotted. For this reason, we’ve thought of summarizing 14 of the best modern VST plugins to aid every beginner in their first steps at creating a handy library of these tools for themselves.
Top 14 VST Plugins For Beginners 2021
1. Future Audio Workshop SubLab Review (Synth)
This Synthesizer is the definition of modernity and fast workflow. SubLab will deliver the most prominent and thick bass for your music, especially if you’re on the hip-hop, future bass, or trap genres.
Among the various features that make this Synthesizer so innovative is the modern and unique X-Sub™ oscillator, which is only available in SubLab’s engine. Since it works as a sub-bass maximizer, X-Sub™ will always keep notes on the sub-range, giving precise, steady, and deep-sounding bass on any speaker system.
You’ll have the option to implement your own samples, which will then be pitch-detected and saved in a personal sample library. This Synth also includes six signature Bass Packs and 250 kick samples designed with accurate recordings and complex modulation techniques.
Now, let’s discuss the solid points and specific details of the Future Audio Workshop’s Synthesizer.
- Three Mixable Layers
The plugin has three adjustable layers for setting the Synth, Sampler, and X-Sub™’s presences in the mix. The Synth Engine behaves as an analog-style synthesizer and features sine, triangle, sawtooth and square wave options, and you can send it to a filter in the mixer. The Sampler Engine has a lo-cut and hi-cut filter option and a loop mode and key-tracking feature; it also displays a window showing the note and octave the sample is in. The X-Sub™ Engine keeps the notes in the sub-range using upper harmonic frequency content. Highlight this feature with the adjustable harmonics glider in the “main bass” window.
Apart from a Filter, SubLab comes with a Compressor and a Distortion effect. The Compressor has practical and straightforward settings and features an exciting sidechain option. You can adjust the sidechain for the Synth and the Sampler layers to whatever value they desire. There are four types of Distortion available: Darkdrive, Overdrive, Grunge, and Tube; each controls the Fatness, Tone, Fizz, and Heat, respectively. You can set a parallel proportion of your liking in the effect’s knobs.
- Metering Panel
The Metering Panel displays the master output in detail within the plugin. All three mixable layers will be graphically represented with designated color-coded values, overlaying each other. This spectrum analyzer provides the peak value and a built-in maximizer to assist in managing any clippings.
- In-Depth Customization
With a large amount of content to explore, SubLab has exciting things, such as a high-fidelity key-tracking option on the Sampler, which also comes with a terrific faded loop option for convincing sustain notes. You’ll also find the editable glide curve, legato, and BPM synced glide times highly practical in building sounds.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and Mac OS 10.10 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
With this incredible tool, anyone will be able to build basses with freedom and versatility. If you’re looking for thick, deep, and big textures in the low-end of a mix, the SubLab will assist you in creating just that. Or maybe you’re trying to come up with a unique and customized bass for your tracks; then you’ll enjoy experimenting with the exciting features, presets, and libraries the Future Audio Workshop’s plugin has.
2. RC-20 Retro Color Review (Channel Strip)
The RC-20 Retro Color will spice any mix with a vintage flavor. Its easy-to-use features will add warmth, texture, and a retro nostalgic character on your drums, guitars, keys, basses, and full mixes.
Along with six unique FX modules, this plugin comes packed with the exclusive XLN Audio’s Flux Engine. This unique engine, developed by the masterminds behind the plugin, works by adding a certain level of fluctuation and instability to the sound, providing that pleasant warmth, analog-style texture.
A sonic time machine, this plugin is inspired by the old analog years of audio. It aims to replicate the classic artifacts like VHS machines and Vinyl records by using a bit of distortion, noise, wobble, and more.
- Convenient Modules
The RC-20 Retro Color has six different modules that can be applied to any sound. Apart from the top-notch replication of retro characteristics, these modules are also pretty easy to use. With one knob assigned to every module, you’ll be able to control the proportion in which the sound will be affected by Noise, Wobble, Distort, Digital, Space, and Magnetic effects. Furthermore, you’ll also have the freedom to go minimalistic and change specifics that every module will work with. For example, set a particular rate for the Magnetic module and Stereo it.
- Straightforward Intensity Control
The plugin also features a very useful magnitude slider. The slider will work to control how much intensity is being applied to the overall processing of the modules working together. It’s easily accessible when you’re building your settings. It gets really handy if assigned with automation since it will lay the ground to control the mix’s energy. Use it to get some solid breakdowns or transitions.
- Versatile Presets
By holding an extensive array of presets, the RC-20 Retro Color will surprise every producer with its versatility. The plugin includes high-fidelity presets to replicate sounds, such as two vinyl presets, two tape ones, a static radio, VHS machine, Tube, Cassette, and much more. Each module will be equipped with a satisfying amount of features, and some will have manually selectable presets. Apart from the presets in the modules, there are also presets for the magnitude slider section, which processes the plugin’s mix.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and Mac OS 10.9 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
A three-time awardee, the RC-20 Retro Color will give every producer freedom and variety for pushing any mix with vintage colors. Use it and explore the subtle warmth of classic analog audio in any sounds or go further and crank up some instability and fluctuation to spice up the mix. Either way, you’ll be getting modernity in the analog goodness of the old time’s best technologies.
3. Initial Audio IA-LA1 Review (Compressor)
A straightforward and transparent compressor, the IA-LA1 will compress in an extremely responsive matter. It doesn’t involve distortion unless it’s wanted.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-use compressor, then you’ll be surprised by this plugin’s transparency and optimal response time. While equipped with a modern algorithm, the IA-LA1 compressor won’t add any distortion nor artifacts to any sounds. But if desired, use a feature within it called THD Control to introduce a subtle dynamic control, evoking warmth and depth.
By displaying a level and gain reduction meter, this plugin’s accuracy is surprising. You’ll be excited by how precise the compressor works by looking at the visual representation of the processing on the plugin’s built-in meter. The pristine compression in a small amount of time is a high trait for this compressor.
This plugin work with an automatic compression resource. Its response time is so adequate that it doesn’t need an attack and release setting. The subtleness of the compressor is so characteristic that it’s a standard recommendation to use it in low-intensity parts of any mix. By working in a lower intensity part, the compressor will make the sounds even, with pleasantness, without the need to adjust anything more than the Threshold, Make Up, THD, and Input Gain.
- Harmonic Textures
The Initial Audio IA-LA1 not only does the job of a standard compressor. This plugin also thickens the sound up with the Total Harmonic Distortion feature, apart from building up and growing extra layers when adequately set in the mix. The THD adds extra harmonics in the compressed sound, and it does this in a very solid musical way. The extra warmth and depth result from a brilliantly designed plugin with simple and handy features.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3 and AU formats.
The IA-LA1 will deliver harmonically rich compression using a modern asset called THC. This compressor is an effective plugin to pull up the energy of any mix. It’s also a straightforward compressor with outstanding makeup performance and simple controls. With this plugin, you won’t need to spend too much time cranking and pushing knobs and faders to reach musical-level performances.
4. Kuassa EFEKTOR RV3604 Reverb Review (Reverb)
As a Reverb plugin, Kuassa’s EFEKTOR RV3604 goes with simplicity and modern design to provide every producer’s mix with an immersive, ambient, and realistic reverberation process.
Searching for the right reverb for your mix can be time-consuming. Some plugins will treat reverberation with an intense digital profile, while others tend to sound more realistic.
The EFEKTOR RV3604 plugin will work as a realistic reverb as it assigns artificial and mechanical sources with natural sounds. With this modern algorithm, you’ll be able to create surfboard crashing waves, far-reaching space, sun-over-the-clouds feelings, and even epic moments.
This plugin features photorealistic graphics for a guitar experience resembling real life. This means it takes the algorithms from the sounds of natural spaces and provides them in five types of reverbs: Room, Hall, Plate, Spring, and Shimmer. All five of these reverb types are great to achieve optimal simulation and immersion.
- Easy To Use
With a time-saving design, Kuassa’s EFEKTOR RV3604 Reverb displays very accessible controls. With separate in-built Wet and Dry knobs, you will be able to set their preferred proportion of reverb in the sound. The interface is very straightforward and simplified. Every beginner will have great results by quickly dialing a few parameters.
This plugin is available for Windows Vista or higher and macOS 10.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
The EFEKTOR RV3604 will aid any beginner in reaching an immersive and realistic spatial texture for their music. This great Reverb is easy to use and has a straightforward design. The modern algorithm of simulating real-life sounds and applying it makes this effective plugin versatile and handy to your library.
5. Audio Thing Things – Texture Review (Granular Reverb)
Audio Things went beyond with their Granular Reverb plugin, Texture. This plugin fits a variety of projects, including Sound Design. It’s from an Audio Thing series that covers a wide range of effects, and it’s a must in any creative library.
Audio Thing came up with a series of plugins and effects focused primarily on Sound Design. In their creative process, they added “Texture.” Texture is a granular reverb, and it’s the first effect of the series. For a Sound Designer, this plugin will be an excellent tool to transform any sound into an ambient soundscape.
Interestingly, this plugin’s design and features are based on the techniques used in the Soundtrack and Sound Design of the indie game, The Swapper.
- Special Stereo
An exciting resource that makes Texture noted is the Mid/Side mode. As a granular reverb, this plugin will try to simulate real-world environments. When engaged, this feature will apply the granular effect to one side of the sound and attenuate the midsection, thus creating a unique and immersive Stereo surrounding.
- Granular Pitching
Featuring an in-built pitch knob, Audio Thing built this granular Reverb intending to assist you in different situations. A powerful plugin, the Texture reverb can bring the pitch of your track up or down 12 dB while still maintaining realism and subtleness. As the pitch shifting is active, the plugin will not distort the sound in any way.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.7 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Being the first plugin of AudioThing’s “Things” series, the company developed texture to assist Sound Designers in reaching an authentic atmospheric feeling in their tracks. This modern plugin will make immersion seem easy with a simple and optimal interface and brilliant design with excellent stereo resources. Things is a must for your library if you’re thinking about going the Sound Design path.
6. Audio Damage QuatroMod Review (Flanger, Chorus, Diffusor, Frequency Shifter)
The practical and handy Audio Damage’s QuatroMod holds an astounding five modulations in one straightforward plugin.
Made for all sorts of devices, the QuatroMod runs on PC and iOS devices. This exciting plugin will keep you from losing time and compromising your computer’s processing power by simplifying five significant modulation effects.
Acting as a single plugin, any producer will benefit from its sophisticated effects such as Flanger, Chorus, Diffusor, and Frequency shifter.
Practicality is the point here. This one single plugin holds an interesting Flanger with a Haas Effect control and invertible feedback for widening your tracks even more. It also features a fluid Chorus mode with six delay lines modded at different rates for a thick chorus. In addition to that, AudioDamage also included a Diffusor in this plugin, which is a unique experiment by them. It is essentially the diffusion block from a reverb, rewired to act as a chorus. And to provide a full package, the QuatroMod also comes with a Frequency Shifting mode, a thoroughly reworked effect by the AudioDamage team, promising to deliver high-standard results.
One significant advantage this plugin has is its brilliant layout. The five effects of it are easily accessible on the plugin’s window, and the knobs are highly simplistic and informative. Browsing through five different modulations effects with such swiftness is incredibly convenient and the result of a well-designed product.
This plugin is available for Windows 8.1 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit, macOS 10.8 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit, and iOS 9.3 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and AUv3 formats.
The QuatroMod by AudioDamage is a CPU-friendly plugin that holds five effects in a brilliantly designed interface. With the tremendous easy-to-use layout, anyone will be able to set high-quality Flanger, Chorus, Diffusor, and Frequency Shifter. As a producer, you’ll immensely appreciate this plugin since it delivers quickly and easily. Since you’re starting on this path as a beginner, consider a plugin like QuatroMod even more optimal for your library.
7. BOZ Digital Labs ProVocative (Pitch Shifter)
ProVocative is a pitch-shifting plugin designed by BOZ Digital Labs that is intended to be easy to use and good for the CPU.
As a detailed micro pitch shifter, the ProVocative works with intuitive controls and a helpful interface. BOZ Digital Labs designed this one focusing on an easy and simple layout. Not only they succeeded in making this thoughtful plugin swift and practical, but they also made it economical and friendlier towards the CPU.
As a beginner in music production, pay attention to this critical feature. Plugins with complex qualities may cause you more harm than good. The reason for this occurrence is that whatever device is producing your tracks needs to function correctly, and heavy plugins might drain too much of their processing capacity. By implementing every track with easy-to-use and simplistic plugins like the ProVocative, you’ll cooperate with the processing power required from any device, which is exceptionally vital.
- Band Limit
This plugin has an in-built band limit. By applying a high or low pass filter on its signal, you’ll get a nice smooth, subtle widening. It’s no news that low and high pass filters yield interesting results when applied to the micro pitched tracks, and are an excellent experimentation practice.
The ProVocative has intuitive controls. One of these valuable tools you’ll find easy to adjust in the interface are the mix knobs. Apart from the wet and dry knobs, you’ll also be able to link both signals with the button between them and get the wet and dry knobs to work as a mix instead.
This feature is a vast advantage that we can’t stress enough. In today’s digital “In the box” mixing, plugins such as these are extremely valuable and cost-effective. It’s mind-blowing that an excellent quality pitch-shifting plugin like the ProVocative can run in operational systems as old as Windows XP without any intense work by the device.
This plugin is available for Windows XP or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and Mac OS 10.5 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
ProVocative is a plugin for optimal performance and excellent deliveries. By allowing anybody to run it without any compromise to the processing power of their device, this plugin lets every producer explore and experiment freely with the features of a pitch-shifter. With a design highly intuitive, you’ll have full and swift control of everything that the plugin has to offer, giving you a steady and quick result.
8. FabFilter Micro Review (Filter)
As mentioned earlier, it’s a good practice to be familiarized with some popular plugin creators that you’ll want in your library. And recognizing the FabFilter brand and their top-of-the-line filters is highly beneficial.
The FabFilter’s Micro, is a modern and straightforward filter ideally suited for basic filtering tasks, distortion, and saturation effects. Conveniently named “Micro,” this filter is a modest alternative for people looking to have one of the best brands of plugins quality in a reasonably-priced product.
With the classic design and analog features of most FabFilter plugins, you’ll venture into an efficient and easy-to-use application, as can be seen in the image below.
- Envelope Follower
Use this exciting feature to make good, interesting sounds. The Envelope Follower, when active, takes the input signal and modulates its cutoff depending on what frequencies are breaking through, so the result will be some nice and solid movements.
The speed knob in this plugin is quite an exciting feature. When pulling the knob to a lower or higher value on the speed feature, a signal’s modulation will be noticed. Apart from enabling extensive experimentations, this feature can be a good resource when played with more aggressive sounds and you want to intensify a “drop” in the track.
An exciting thing about the Micro filter is that it’s incredibly cost-effective. Not only it uses the most modern and appreciated algorithms of FabFilter’s products, but you can also enjoy qualities commonly found on popular products of the brand. The Micro filter comes with MIDI Learn technology and an efficient undo/redo resource, not to mention the low-pass and high-pass filter settings and the modern interface with an easy-to-use interactive filter display.
This plugin is available for Windows XP or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and Mac OS 10.10 or higher 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
As with all FabFilter plugins. The Micro filter succeeds in its delivery, efficiency, and cost-effectivity. The plugin is a mix of modest, brilliant design, with the modernity and quality of the top-of-the-line brand of filters, FabFilter. It delivers complex and creative effects by using an easy interactive filter display. While beginning the audio production journey, you will benefit a lot from adding this plugin to the arsenal.
9. Singomakers Phat Booster Review (Saturation)
If you like thick sounds in the mix, use this plugin by Singomakers. A modern and straightforward saturation one-knob plugin, the Phat Booster uses four algorithms to make every sound fat and solid.
As a beginner, look for simple in-use but highly effective and powerful plugins. This saturation plugin by Singomakers works precisely like that. The thin and weak sounds instantly get more comprehensive and thicker when they pass through this excellent tool. It is a must for your arsenal.
In saturation plugins, it’s common for many producers to just need an easy and intuitive saturator that will make the sounds more assertive and exciting. The Phat Booster proves itself significant on the drum bus, leads, and main bass sounds.
The Phat Booster comes with four different Modes (Algorithms): the Tone Fader, Phase Reverse Button, and Pre-Fader Filters (Off / 45 Hz cut / 60 Hz cut). These four algorithms, though sounding complex, are brilliantly developed in the plugin’s code and work efficiently and proportionately when you’re experimenting with the single knob. Together they add fatness and power to the sound.
You can’t get more practical than that. This saturation plugin only features a single knob in a very scalable, interesting design. As an easily adjustable effect, it also features a Tone Fader, Phase Reverse Button, and an input/output volume that ranges in the +6 -12 dB levels.
- Low-mid Harmonics
By working in the low-mid range, this plugin makes it interesting and assertive and delineates its harmonics. When trying to add fatness to the basses, synths, drums, and even powerful low-end vocals, the Phat Booster attributes some low-mid harmonics in a very subtle way, giving strength and power to this frequency range.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
Phat Booster is a simple and efficient saturation plugin that works particularly well in the low-mid range. Among the various handy features, this plugin has four different algorithms that lead to its saturation response. On top of that, it’s a reasonably recent plugin. Its modern design and functionality add flavor and sophistication to the overall taste of your tracks.
10. Soundtoys Little PrimalTap Review (Delay)
With this pleasantly-looking, vintage-style design, this SoundToys’ delay affects the signal with five great and exciting effects, in a very distinctive retro digital processing.
If you enjoy the prime-time of vintage audio, you’ll enjoy this resourceful and complete delay plugin. Getting its inspiration out of the 70s highly distinctive Prime Time digital delay, the PrimalTap honors the older hardware’s old and well-loved features.
Long, massive, and extensive Lo-fi atmospheres can result from using this plugin’s various features. On this odd and exciting Delay, it’s possible to do weird and creative experimentations by turning the Feedback and Adjust knob. Experimentation is a vital thing for a beginner to do, so get confident and add PrimalTap to your arsenal. Pay attention to this plugin’s line of action, mess with the looping and warping functions, observe the distortion and how it mangles the sounds. Take those plugin’s features as teaching tools.
- Infinite Feedback
The looping power in the PrimalTap delay plugin is astounding. As mentioned earlier, this delay used the hardware called The Prime Time as its inspiration; this hardware was an analog effect. One of its main features was the powerful loop and delay time of 128 milliseconds. In this new adaptation by the team at SoundToys, the PrimalTap has double the looping power, with an incredible 256 milliseconds delay time.
Since you’re venturing into the audio world, it’s fair to know that weird is actually cool. In an attempt to work with one of the most notorious features from The Prime Time, PrimalTap Delay achieved to get the weird and beloved multiply effect. This effect was an accidental occurrence in the original hardware. It happened because it had a function named “Multiply”, and this feature would start halving the rate of the signal’s sample whilst Prime Time doubled the delay time, thus resulting in a strange and fun sound. Experiment with things that go out of the ordinary, this is what builds your sonic identity as an audio producer.
- Unique Mix
This plugin drifts away moderately from the “normal” delay plugins. While using the knobs, some textures light up creatively. The Multiply knob will delay the sound for a much larger time, it will also be drastically changing tonality with every increase resulted from the delay effect. The Adjust knob will be pitch shifting, it will also act as a chorusing effect, by combining these two, it does a great job at attributing similar pitches at individual sounds. It will also get some flanging effects for the signal. And for harvesting a unique mix, with characteristic sounds, this plugin does an amazing role at mashing everything together with the Feedback function, along with the Input.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.10 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
The Little PrimalTap is a delay plugin developed by Soundtoys and the 1978 Prime Time hardware inspires it. Its unique features and brilliant design gives this plugin an out-of-the-ordinary performance. The knobs on the interface are pretty easy to use and tend to provide you with experimentation freedom and extraordinary results. It’s also capable of making the notorious infinite feedback found in the original hardware, Prime Time.
11. Waves Renaissance DeEsser Review (DeEsser)
Waves is one of the giants in the audio industry. As a beginner, do yourself a favor and get familiar with their products. With the Renaissance DeEsser by Waves, anybody will be able to precisely reduce undesirable higher frequencies while maintaining the good aspects of the sound.
Sibilant sounds are generally tricky to control. It’s not common for de-essers to remove unwanted frequencies without compromising some other textures of the track. This compensation can often prompt you to look for other de-essers and may be time-consuming.
But, with the Renaissance DeEsser, it will be easy to combat harsh sibilance by combining the unique technologies used in Waves’ C4, R-Vox, and DeEsser plugins. The result will be an optimal, clean, efficient, and compelling track.
- Phase Compensation
One of the most distinctive features of Waves’ Renassaince DeEsser is the phase-compensated crossover. The crossover filters in any speaker system will inevitably introduce phase distortion. Still, this plugin’s phase-compensated crossover gives it the ability to preserve the audio musical features since the algorithm automatically compensates for any unwanted distortion.
- Adaptive Threshold
While equipped with a single threshold, this plugin offers an easy-to-use interface in which you’ll have the freedom to choose the different Modes in the “Mode” button below the graphic display. By setting a mode, you can adjust the respective value for the selected attribute by using this single threshold that can adapt to the different modes within the plugin.
This plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.13.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
An exciting plugin, the Waves Renaissance DeEsser, will surprise you with its simplicity and functionality. By holding itself at a higher standard, this plugin will avoid audio problems that common DeEssers cause. It will feature an exact process and remove unwanted higher frequencies without changing the desired textures you want to keep from the original audio.
12. Initial Audio Master Suite Review (Master Chain)
An extensive part of music production involves mastering. The master is where subtleness and minimalism take place to work together and deliver a pristine track. With Initial Audio’s Master Suite, anyone will find this process way easier than it is.
With the loudness control feature, this plugin will let you adjust the volume with one simple and effective knob. Along with it, the 3-band equalizer is thoughtfully made for precise mastering equalization. To set the final glue to the master, the stereo image controls featured in the plugin will completely manipulate the spatial width and depth usually reserved for the mastering stage.
The team behind Initial Master, who developed this mastering suite, has an exciting motto when referencing this plugin. Their motto for the Master Suite mastering plugin is: “Anyone Can Master!” and as a beginner in audio production, you’ll be pretty smart if you consider adding this plugin to your arsenal.
- LUFS Display
Before giving the final touch in a mix, and wrapping it up, you’ll need to check if the music has industry-standard requirements for loudness. With the detailed LUFS display on this mastering plugin, you’ll be able to see precisely the sound’s loudness level in an accurate meter. The plugin will also display a warning whenever the song gets too loud.
One of the common problems with limiters and compressors on the mastering stage is the chopping up of sounds they can accidentally cause. In Master Suite, a highly modern intelligent algorithm will apply a surgical amount of limiting and compression, which can be controlled with the “soften” and “comp mix” knobs on the interface.
- Friendly interface
With a delightful interface, this plugin goes a long way to provide comfort and coziness. With an organized and clean control panel, you’ll feel more relaxed to spend time doing the often-tiring master. The plugin also allows you to resize its shape to match any screen resolution.
The Mastering Plugin features a handy 3-band equalizer that can cut or boost the low, mid, and high frequencies by up to 6 dB. It also has a Mono and Stereo control for enhancing and adjusting the spatial field. You can also find a THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) in the plugin. This effect “fatten” up the master, increasing the perceived loudness.
This plugin is available for Windows Vista or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.7 or higher 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
This efficient, easy-to-use Mastering plugin will let you do all the necessary processing in the mastering stage with comfort and practicality. The plugin features handy effects like an equalizer, a compressor/limiter, and a stereo/mono control. The LUFS display is highly handy at monitoring and controlling the loudness of the track.
13. SoundSpot Velo 2 Review (Limiter)
Velo 2 is a limiter by SoundSpot that they released after the success of the original Velo. Velo2 comes with additional features and options. In addition to that, a rework was made, and it now features some improved limiting algorithms.
SoundSpot’s Velo 2 is a powerful limiter for maximizing loudness. It can influence coloration and transient preservation with its different options. With new and improved algorithms, Velo 2 reacts quickly to the incoming signal. It’s also an extremely handy limiter for mastering any style of rhythmical music with pronounced transients.
- Volume Accuracy
This limiter shows the overall dB level in the central display with three different modes. You can choose between Peak, RMS, and LUFS for an accurate idea of volume levels in the real world. While it’ll show the numbers on the center, it will also show the stereo signal by displaying colored waves. This will give an accurate representation of how you’re shaping the sound when applying the limiting.
- Style Options
The limiter has four style options that you can choose between for a coloration change based on the limiter’s gain reduction. These styles are called Lucid, Warm, Punch, and Bright. These choices mean that the limiter will pick some frequencies to attenuate more than others, subtly changing the tonal balance of your track while still applying gain reduction.
- Lookahead Slider
This slider will help smooth the dynamics and allow amplitude spikes as it’s pushed up. To bypass it, simply set it to zero. The oversampling options allow for up to eight times oversampling. The higher you put it, it will introduce less Distortion, and it will process with more transparency. It is interesting to use these oversampling options when setting shorter Lookahead times.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and Mac OS 10.12 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
With a brilliant design, this limiter will facilitate any mastering process with adequate controls and monitoring. One of the advantages this limiter offers is to see precisely how it’s shaping the sound and letting it be adjusted to your liking. If you’re looking for an easy-to-use and intuitive plugin, this limiter fits the criteria and is a must for anyone’s library.
14. Waves One Knob Series Review (One Knobs)
Another great addition from Waves, the One Knob Series, will give you a cost-effective, CPU-friendly, and time-saving all-in-one knob plugin series.
Especially for beginners, when learning audio, how a plugin works, and how to effectively use all of a plugin’s features in a track, you might get a little lost. There is so much technicality usually involved in complex plugins that it may feel like you’re in front of an aircraft control panel when trying a new plugin.
With the OneKnob Series by waves, get practicality as you would never have expected. A single knob will produce a fantastic and colossal effect in the desired spot with just the right amount. It may seem like magic, but being familiar with the services offered by Waves, you’ll know this is the kind of stuff they can bring to the table.
It’s no mystery now that these series use singular knobs to realize complex processing in our tracks. But what exactly are these processes? You’ll be surprised to know that there are a total of eight effects, and they are called Filter, Brighter, Pressure, Louder, Driver, Pumper, Wetter, and Phatter. Each is straightforwardly adjustable in the interface.
Let’s dive into these effects’ specifications. The Brighter plugin works as an EQ, bringing higher frequencies forward and making the mix brighter. The Driver also works as an EQ, more specifically as a high and low cut filter together. The knob filter works as a powerful sweepable filter with switchable resonance modes, also popularly known as “EDM filters.” The Louder plugin, as the name suggests, will act as a limiter on your tracks. The Phatter knob will boost the low-end when applied, thus giving this thicker vibe. The knob called Pressure will behave as a compressor in the mix; it’s very versatile as it can be subtle or cumbersome. The Pumper plugin works as a “chopper,” creating instant ducking effects and simulating sidechain compression. Finally, the Wetter knob is a good and intuitive reverb plugin that’s incredibly subtle and warm.
This plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.13.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
With an intellectual capacity for innovating, Waves hit the hole with this series. The series gives plugins with satisfactory results, brilliant design, and highly intuitive controls. With this addition to your library, you’ll get a good grip on controlling these effects with precision and subtleness. Using only one knob to define an effect’s intensity on the mix will train and work your accuracy for setting effects. These plugins will come in handy when you quickly want to finish the mix, especially as a beginner.
9 Best FREE VST Plugins For Beginners 2021
1. Mathieu Carre Distortion Review (Distortion)
This free distortion plugin by Mathieu Carres is highly addictive. With a few knobs, the plugin gives you strong autonomy with simple controls and an interactive curve display.
This can be your secret weapon for guitar and bass. This free and easy-to-use plugin reaches distortions that most analogic distortion pedals can’t do by featuring a response curve.
With an intuitive interface, this plugin gives the option to set the cutoff, gain structure, and drive. As for the distortive capacity, this is a powerful plugin, and you’ll be able to notice the modernity and power in the sound after applying it.
- Customizable Curve
The display featured in this plugin allows you to change the nonlinearity curve. The response curve centralized in the plugin’s interface has five points that’ll form the curve in which the distortion will base itself. The lines can be changed and adjusted with many possibilities. For example, you could do a non-symmetric curve by dragging and pulling the lines between the points for some substantial distortion.
- Variety Of Displays
Apart from giving the freedom to shape the curve lines, the plugin also features presets that will add to your experimentation process. By offering different forms in which the dots that make the curve will organize, Mathieu Carre’s Distortion will let you achieve aggressiveness with an almost infinite amount of combinations and reshapes. Adding to that, you can use the Cutoff knob to reduce any hard High-Frequency and get a smoother distortion.
Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.14 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3 formats.
A powerful and easy-to-use plugin, the Distortion distorted can be a great addition to any arsenal. By yielding great results on basses and guitars, this plugin will let you shape and reshape the distortion curve to exactly how you want it. Quick, versatile, CPU friendly, and accessible.
2. Softube Saturation Knob Review (Saturation)
Softube is a renowned plugin manufacturer. The fact that they have a free saturation plugin available is exciting. With Saturation Knob, you’ll be able to fatten up basses, add harmonics to the voices, and much more.
The Saturation Knob has an excellent reputation because of the effect it adds to voices. This plugin, when applied on a voice track, can add some harmonics and shimmer to vocals. Be ready to notice some sweet presence in the singer’s voice.
You’ll fall in love with the design and friendliness of the interface. While equipped with very straightforward controls, this plugin will give quick and satisfactory results without compromising processing power.
- Saturation Types
Softube’s Saturation Knob offers three types of saturation. You can choose between “keep high,” “neutral,” and “keep low.” Each of these refers to the frequency range that the plugin will affect more. The plugin shows its versatility in raising good distortion and harmonics for drums, bass, voice, and guitars by giving these three aforementioned options.
Saturation Knob couldn’t be more practical. The plugin delivers excellent results while featuring only one knob. By using the knob in combination with the saturation type button, you will be able to work effectively while subtlety using the controls. The simple controls are an excellent opportunity for a beginner to learn how distortion works. Using only a knob and no other complex artifacts can be teaching if you gradually notate the effects it is applying.
This plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.13 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Featuring three saturation modes, the Saturation Knob by Softube will deliver aggressiveness and impact in your mix. Along with strong-sounding bass, drums, and guitar, the Saturation knob also adds some harmonics and shimmer to vocals. It’s easy to use, and most-of-all, it’s a fantastic free plugin by Softube.
3. kiloHearts – 3-Band EQ Review (Equalizer)
This equalizer features three bands and can powerfully shape your whole song. With robust algorithms, this plugin will deliver much more than standard equalizers.
KiloHearts are very reputable in terms of delivering high-quality filters. The team behind KiloHeart’s plugin 3-Band EQ went beyond by stacking the well-loved and reliable filters together to create a quick and easy-to-use Equalizer.
The 3-Band EQ is a straightforward equalizer. By looking at the image below, you’ll see that the plugin has an intuitive interface. Even though the interface is simple, the 3-Band EQ works in complex and powerful ways, giving your sounds a pleasant effect.
- Spectrum Division
As an equalizer, the 3-Band EQ by Kilohearts gives the possibility to shape up three sections of the spectrum. With three knobs on the interface, you will be able to adjust the low, mid, and highs in any track. You’ll also be able to see the exact curve made by the equalizer in the frequency range’s display. An exciting feature that you’ll find in this equalizer is that it offers a “randomize” button, which can be suitable for experimentation.
Apart from being highly manageable in any device without compromising the processing power, this plugin also features a brilliant interface. This straightforward-designed interface features a checkbox for bypassing the plugin when disabled. Another good tool to make this plugin cozier is the Resize Handle. With the Resize Handle, you’ll have the option to scale the plugin’s window to any size.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and Mac OS 10.7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST2, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
This Equalizer will work on three spectrums of the sound. It will carefully treat the song’s mid, low, and highs with the modern and effective 3-Band EQ. This plugin is a tremendous addition to any producer’s library by offering simple controls and significant effects.
4. iZotope Vocal Doubler Review (Stereo Enhancer)
iZotope is a very reliable brand to include in your plugin library. They offer significant effects and brilliant designs in all their plugins. The Vocal Doubler is in line with iZotope’s quality of work since it enhances and adds richness to any vocals.
This plugin works with a natural doubling effect. Appropriate to be used on vocals, you’ll be surprised to how much of the quality textures are valued when this plugin is applied.
With minimalistic and intuitive parameters, Vocal Doubler will fill your vocal recordings with life. It’s as effective as it’s CPU-friendly since it won’t cause the device any effort, even in the most complex productions.
To separate and adjust the doubling of the voices in Vocal Doubler is pretty straightforward. With an interactive interface, you’ll be able to drag, rotate and pull the doubling effect simply. The interface also displays what the sound is visually becoming, giving the notion of length and depth with colorful waves.
Many producers acclaim iZotope for its doubling technology. So it’s not surprising that they went further by developing a feature that controls the level of human-like expression in their Vocal Doubler plugin. This feature, called Variation, will give the doubled recording a high-fidelity natural texture. The result is a potent and sparkling vocal mix.
This plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.8.5 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
This must-have free plugin is handy for vocal experimentation. With an acclaimed doubling technology, you’ll be able to make naturally sounding doubling effects in any track. Equipped with an easy-to-use interface, this plugin gives every audio producer practicality and choice in effects, as well as detailed and resourceful monitoring of Separation, Variation, and Amount.
5. Audio Damage Rough Rider 3 Review (Transparent Compressor)
This revolutionary dynamics processor delivers quality, accuracy, and greatness in many applications. And it’s completely free, which explains why it’s the most popular dynamic processor in the world.
This plugin is an excellent opportunity to grow your arsenal. Rough Rider 3 is great and offers no artifacts in your mixes; you’ll be getting fully textured pristine sounds with a manageable interface.
This fantastic production by Audio Damage offers easy controls, exciting features, and is a versatile application for the whole mix.
- Full Bandwith
When compression is applied, the plugin uses filters to make the sounds more appealing and warm; this means that this compressor colors the sound slightly. The use of these filters has become a trademark in the Rough Rider series. In this current version, which is version three, you have this new feature called “Full Bandwith,” which gives you the option to switch off that filtering process. This new feature provides cleaner sounds in your mix.
Rough Rider 3 has a high-pass filter that it can use to delimitate what portions of the frequency spectrum will be affected, a sidechain filter. The filter can be helpful if you have some boomy low texture in the kick and don’t want them to trigger the sidechain compression. This feature comes as a new addition to this modern plugin version, which has internal sidechaining and external sidechaining.
The interface is convenient, and all the controls are intuitive. Apart from the distinct features, this compressor offers a resize function. Not many modern plugins adhere to this feature, but it’s an excellent and effective way of providing a user-friendly experience for many producers.
This plugin is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.12 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Reliable and modern, the RoughRider 3 is the most popular compressor out there. It has advanced features that can give sounds a smooth and clean compression. It’s also resourceful if you’re trying to apply some detailed compression on specific frequencies of any mix. With a helpful interface, you’ll be able to enjoy the best qualities this free plugin has to offer. Add it to your library now and begin the journey with a strong arsenal.
6. Valhalla Freq Echo Review (Delay)
Valhalla Freq Echo is an excellent plugin for anything psychedelic. It comes with a bode-style Frequency Shifter and an Analog Echo Emulation.
If you like classic, chorus, and flagging sounds, you’ll have a great time exploring this plugin. With unique algorithms, the Valhalla Freq Echo works precisely and delivers high-quality sounds.
Surprisingly accessible, it can also work as an echoer, a doubler, and a feedback unit. This plugin is a must for any beginner, so do yourself a favor and get it for the arsenal.
- Delay Presets
This incredible plugin gives a lot of freedom with its delay knob, which you can set to any value desired. But it also features a plentitude of delay presets. The many specific presets in the delay time can be extremely useful since they cover a massive field of rhythmic times, giving more musically-sounding delays.
This highly-acclaimed feature gives the Valhalla Freq Echo the psychedelic fame it holds. The feedback knob, when used, controls the level of feedback emitted by the shifted delayed signal. The Feedback will ensure that the delayed response will keep active with the intensity and length you set it to be.
The feedback does not make the Valhalla Freq Echo psychedelic by itself. This plugin also has an innovative feature called “Shift” that sets the amount of frequency in hertz the delayed sound’s tail will go up or down. This feature leads to all kinds of weirdness and uniqueness.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.8 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Valhalla Freq Echo is unlike any delay you’ve tried. By offering an exciting feature called Shift, you can achieve psychedelic greatness with quality and control. You can also enjoy the Feedback feature and do some good intense delays. It’s a surprise that this plugin is free, go grab it.
7. Acon Digital Verberate Basic 2 Review (Reverb)
The Verberate Basic 2 is an alternate version of the Verberate 2 plugin. This affordable version does not lose on quality, though. By using the same audio quality from the original plugin, this version will deliver unique reverb on your tracks.
By using the same algorithms from the original Verberate 2, this basic version reaches high-quality audio with its four distinct presets.
The four presets found in this alternate version come from the original Verberate 2 plugin. You’ll benefit from presets such as the Plate, Room, Hall, and Lush Hall found on the paid version by getting this free version.
- Strong Realism
Acon Digital’s algorithms developed for the Verberate Basic 2 are highly complex and deliver a solid sound. This plugin produces a high-quality reverb. It works by making realistic early reflections along with reverberation tail processors. It also blends these reflections nicely in the mix without unpleasant comb filter effects.
- Swirl Effect
Like in old digital reverb units, this plugin can achieve high-fidelity cloud-like reverb tails. This effect happens because the Verberate Basic 2, though modern, is equipped with an optional swirl effect. This effect, when activated, models the frequency modulated tails of vintage reverberated audio.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and Mac OS 10.9 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
A decent reverb plugin, the Verberate Basic 2, will give high-quality audio and the reputable four presets of the paid Verberate 2 plugin. By adding this plugin to any track, you’ll ensure smooth and effective reverbs, as well as vintage textures in the mix.
8. Nembrini Noise Gate Review (Noise Gate)
This Noise Gate plugin by Nembrini is quick, simple, and intuitive. It’s tuned to serve a guitar or bass track with more precision and flavor.
This plugin is filled with a beautiful analog tube coloration that sets the bar for its quality. With a very simple and easy-to-use design, you’ll be able to benefit from its resources quickly and precisely.
Noise Gates are essential. Venturing further into the music production path, you’ll notice that adding unique textures to music is highly valuable. This is one of the reasons why you should consider Noise Gate by Nembrini.
Nembrini developed this Noise Gate to be quicker and easier to set up than regular Noise Gate plugins. You’ll be able to use its features in a very swift and effective way. Its practicality is what Nembrini Audio achieved when they designed an extremely resourceful interface with no complexity.
The Analog Rack Noise Gate is ideal for every Musician, Producer, and Audio Engineer. But a noticeable feature is that the algorithm built within this plugin work with extra precision and accuracy at guitar and bass sounds. When developed, the creators particularly tuned the Noise Gate by Nembrini to handle basses and guitars with perfection.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
This plugin is extremely easy to use and intuitive. As a noise gate, it will work particularly well in guitars and basses. It also benefits the mix by adding color and texture, resulting in pleasant sounds.
9. kiloHearts Limiter Review (Limiter)
KiloHearts holds fame for delivering high-quality plugins, and it couldn’t be different with this one. This Limiter will let you control gain and peaks with accuracy in any mix.
This plugin delivers perfectly. It makes sure the signal is controlled and never distorts or destroys transients when holding back the loudness of your sounds.
Equipped with a small and straightforward interface, The KiloHearts Limiter will surprise you with its suitability and intuitive controls.
- Four Knobs
While equipped with four intuitive knobs, this plugin gives you a complete and straightforward service. The In Gain and Out Gain knobs, as well as the Threshold knob, are highly indicative and accurate. The Release knob will then adjust the quickness in which the sound’s volume will return to normal. As mentioned, it’s a simple plugin but works effectively and is adequate for fast-pacing productions.
A good amount of users enormously values this often-overlooked feature. While dragging the corner of the plugin’s window, you’ll be able to scale the interactive board to any size. For a limiter plugin, this is extra handy since you will be able to set more prominent controls if, for example, using a touchscreen monitor in a live performance.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.10 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
As a beginner in audio, you’ll benefit from growing a library with versatile, practical, and simple in-use plugins. The KiloHearts Limiter is extremely easy to use and features a friendly resizeable interface. As a limiter, it controls the sound’s loudness without compromising any transients and naturality of the signal.
Krotos Simple Concept Review (Synth)
When trying to create custom sound effects and instruments, you’ll need a synthesizer. Nothing works better than a creative and straightforward Synth plugin for any Producer, especially a beginner.
Simple Concept is a convenient tool for creating unique sounds. You’ll be surprised by how its simplicity achieves high-quality sounds. Don’t get doubtful about this plugin’s few controls.
This synth is not complex. Its limitations will work in your favor as a teaching and creative tool. It uses Kroto’s Concept synth engine, wrapped into a compact interface.
- Tweak It
This plugin offers a diverse range of eighty presets for shape modulations and effects. While this is an impressive amount of presets, it may be limiting if you’re exploring new sounds. That’s why the Tweak It feature is hugely resourceful. This feature, when applied, will instantly create endless presets variations with just a few clicks.
- 7 Knobs Synthesizer
Some people may be having a hard time believing this is real. But yes, Krotos made a synthesizer that features only seven knobs. It’s common for synthesizers to be scarily complex, especially if you’re inexperienced with the many controllers they usually display. Simple Concept goes in the opposite direction. Its extremely easy-to-use interface turns complexity into practicality. You’ll be able to adjust all the essential characteristics of the signal with optimal workflow.
The Macro knobs work in a very interesting way. They are three shapers that, when tweaked, make some fundamentals changes to the sound. These three knobs will set the “skeleton” of the signal. Every time you select a preset in Simple Concept, there will be some changes in the macro knobs. The algorithms behind these knobs work in a modern way. They behave as intelligent codes that simplify complex processing by making wise choices behind the scenes. This way, you’ll save time by adjusting a few practical and technologically innovative synthesizer knobs.
This plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.13 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Krotos set a new bar with the synthesizer Simple Concept. Highly practical and intelligent, this synthesizer features only seven knobs and does the work of a full-equipped synth. Since it avoids complexity, it is definitely a go-to synth plugin for beginners. By exploring the presets and the macro knobs featured in Simple Concept, you will benefit from unique and textured sounds. This synthesizer is an incredible addition to any arsenal if the producer values workflow, quality, and modernity by achieving so much with so little.
Be prepared for a fantastic journey while venturing the audio production path. As a beginner, you’ll enjoy every step of this exciting decision you’ve made. Do not lose hope; music production has its fair share of obstacles as any path. For this reason, we hope that this list we created will somehow clear up your way a little with the many versatile suggestions included here. We also thought that the selected plugins have the capacity to educate anyone by offering straightforward controls.
As for our personal suggestions, we would include SubLab, Things’ Texture, Little PrimalTap, Initial Audio’s Master Suite, Velo 2, and Waves’ One Knob Series as our favorite ones. Ranging in complexity and function, we feel that these plugins can adequately serve the audio of every single project with exciting and prominent results, independently of how diverse and extensive these projects can be.
In the list that highlights the best free plugins, we feel that Mathieu Carre’s Distortion, iZotope’s Vocal Doubler, Audio Damage’s Rough Rider 3, Valhalla’s Freq Echo, and Krotos’ Simple Concept are amazingly optimal and our personal favorites. These plugins offer too much practicality and are unbelievably free. We are confident that you can achieve solid results and impressive, full mixes with these intuitive and modern effects. From quality-rich voices to custom-made synths, you’ll be delivering greatness with a fast and optimized workflow.
We made our personal favorites list by taking into consideration the goals and tastes that we have. This personal selection of ours does not mean that the many formidable and eccentric plugins featured in this article can’t deliver massive results and marvelous audio. Regardless of anything, explore and grow your arsenal by prioritizing your tastes.
Sound Designer who loves getting to know plugins and techniques about audio. I’m from Brazil and I’m passionate about music and the audio role in our life. I’m always excited to play new instruments and currently, my best skills are on the acoustic guitar.